Gluten Free Basil Pesto Pasta Salad

 

This is the best gluten free pasta salad you will ever make. There, I said it. And I’ll say it again. Celiacs rejoice. Look no further. You can go to a BBQ and enjoy a delicious side dish other than coleslaw this summer. Ever since I became obsessed with all things pesto, I’ve been looking for new ways to use it, and this Gluten Free Basil Pesto Pasta Salad is by far the best recipe I’ve created so far. It has received a standing ovation and two thumbs up from both celiacs and gluten-lovers alike. Bless up.

Back when I was in college over ten years ago (sheesh, I got old quick) when my mom got diagnosed with Celiac disease way before Elizabeth Hasselback made it trendy to avoid gluten, you had to go to weird specialty food stores to find any packaged gluten-free products. The pastas were crazy overpriced (just like the GF ketchup which, newflash, Heinz57 is naturally gluten-free) and most GF pastas tasted like you boiled some rubber bands. I’ve prided myself on being my mom’s personal gluten body-guard at restaurants, as an extra layer of protection from dumb dumbs who don’t take the food allergy seriously. If something looked too good to be gluten free, I would taste it for her, and confirm if it was gluten free based on the bland taste and the cardboard consistency. Fast forward ten years, and gluten free crackers taste better than gluten-filled crackers, and the shelves of regular ol’ grocery stores are chock full of delicious, reasonably priced gluten-free products. And most restaurants have gluten-free menus (better than the “glue free” menu we were offered in Florida over ten years ago, yes, true story. GLUE FREE … the laminated menu was safe for anyone with an allergy to Elmer’s Glue.) But I disgress.

We do a lot of entertaining down at our Cape house in the summer, and we’ve found that it’s usually better (and safer) to just make everything gluten-free, as opposed to having a high risk of cross-contamination. So it’s my life mission to continue to make more and more delicious gluten free recipes. Just wait until I post this gluten-free banana bread I made this weekend, that was actually SO good, that we had to go back and double check the flour to make sure it really was gluten free! But back to this pasta salad.

It was not until I recently discovered Banza chickpea pasta that I became a complete convert over to gluten-free pasta. Their pasta is 90% chickpeas, and a serving has 25g of protein, 13g fiber and half the net carbs of regular pasta. With all my weird stomach issues these days, I often try to cook a few dinners every week without meat, and when I do I always feel better using Banza pasta because I’m getting a good amount of protein without the meat. Of course you can make this pasta salad with any brand of pasta, gluten-free or gluten-filled, it’s up to you. You can also modify the “add-ins” to your preference as well, like cucumber, carrots, salami, whatever your stomach desires. We found that this stays for up to 3 days in the fridge (that is, if there are actually leftovers) and if I am making it a night in advance then I do the pasta, pesto + mayo, and then add in the tomatoes, bacon and cheese right before I serve it. The amount of pesto + mayo you add in is really up to preference, so it’s really not an exact science. If you like a creamier pasta salad, add more mayo. If you want to serve this warm, I recommend more pesto and maybe even omit the mayo.

So the next time you’re looking to bring a gluten-free side dish or if you just want to try your hand at a gluten free recipe that doesn’t taste like chewed cardboard, definitely whip up a batch of this super simple Gluten Free Basil Pesto Pasta Salad. Enjoy!

Gluten Free Basil Pesto Pasta Salad

Yield: 6-8 Servings

Prep Time: 25 Minutes

Cook Time: 10 Minutes (For Pasta)

Total Time: 35 Minutes

This gluten-free pesto pasta salad is a refreshing and and healthy side dish for all of your summer BBQs.

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup basil pesto 
  • 1 8-oz box of gluten-free rotini pasta (I prefer Banza pasta)
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise (optional)
  • 3/4 cup grape tomatoes, quartered
  • 1/4 cup bite-sized mozzarella balls, quartered
  • 8 slices crispy bacon, cooked and chopped
  • salt + pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Prepare the basil pesto 
  2. Cook the pasta per the directions on the box, and after draining immediately toss in a large bowl while still warm with the pesto. Especially with gluten-free pasta, this is important so that the pasta does not stick together.
  3. Use a spatula to fold in the mayonnaise - you can add more, or omit entirely, depending on the desired creaminess of the pasta salad.
  4. Fold in the tomatoes, mozzarella and chopped bacon until evenly distributed. Salt and pepper to taste. Chill for at least an hour before serving.
  5. If I make this the night before, I wait until right before I serve it to add in the mozzarella, tomatoes and bacon. This usually stays up to three days refrigerated in an airtight container.